The present craze for competitions for long distance walking reminds the old people of days when country folk must walk if they would get about at all. This was when there were few railways, no coaches in rural neighbourhoods, few gigs except among the most well-to-do, and bad roads. Walking long distances was no hardship. It was walking and carrying heavy burdens at the same time that was the trial.
For instance, eggs had to be sent to the market. A man and a horse could not be spared so one of the lassocks would be sent with the egg basket strapped on her back in this manner: a shawl or rather a long plaid was passed through the “bool” of the shoulders, crossed in front and tied behind in a big knot.
The weight of the basket was supported on the big knot . I am told of one occasion when “a bit lassock” was sent to walk 14 miles between one farm house and another carrying a “clockin’ hen” and chickens; and that the chicks yawped so loudly on the road that the young bearer lifted the lid off the basket and out popped some of them and were lost in the long grass.
There is another tale of a mother and daughter walking five miles, each of them carrying 80lbs of butter. The mother stumped on in front while the daughter strussl’t painfully behind. On arrival at their destination, the latter cried “Mither ye canna hae as muckle as me.” But on counting the contents of each basket, it was found that the elder woman had 84 lbs and the younger 80lbs. So much for the superiority of 50 years over 20 years. How would the farmer’s daughter of this generation like an experience of that sort?
There is a story told of a Cumberland woman, still living who, in her youth walked all the way from London to Keswick, carrying a table, a small round table such as is to be seen in every kitchen in the north of England. Her comment on the walk was always, “Ah niver was sea tired o’ owt in a’ my life as o’ that teable!” A prosaic and heroic Jeanie Deans.